James was king of Scotland until 1603, when he became the first Stuart king of England as well, creating the kingdom of Great Britain.
James was born on 19 June 1566 in Edinburgh Castle. His mother was Mary, Queen of Scots and his father her second husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley was murdered in February 1567. In July Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son. James's tutor, the historian and poet George Buchanan, was a positive influence and James was a capable scholar. A succession of regents ruled the kingdom until 1576, when James became nominal ruler, although he did not actually take control until 1581. He proved to be a shrewd ruler who effectively controlled the various religious and political factions in Scotland.
In 1586, James and Elizabeth I became allies under the Treaty of Berwick. When his mother was executed by Elizabeth the following year, James did not protest too vociferously - he hoped to be named as Elizabeth's successor. In 1589, James married Anne of Denmark. Three of their seven children survived into adulthood.
In March 1603, Elizabeth died and James became king of England and Ireland in a remarkably smooth transition of power. After 1603 he only visited Scotland once, in 1617.
One of James's great contributions to England was the Authorised King James's Version of the bible (1611) which was to become the standard text for more than 250 years. But he disappointed the Puritans who hoped he would introduce some of the more radical religious ideas of the Scottish church, and the Catholics, who anticipated more lenient treatment. In 1605, a Catholic plot to blow up king and parliament was uncovered. James's firm belief in the divine right of kings, and constant need for money, also brought him into conflict repeatedly with parliament.
Abroad, James attempted to encourage European peace. In 1604, he ended the long-running war with Spain and tried to arrange a marriage between his son and the Spanish Infanta. He married his daughter Elizabeth to the elector of the palatinate, Frederick, who was the leader of the German Protestants.
James's eldest son Henry died in 1612 and his wife Anne in 1619. James himself died on 27 March 1625 and was succeeded by his second son, Charles
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.